Tito Puente Jr. gets Skaneateles dancing at SKARTS gala

Tito Puente Jr. got everyone dancing at the 8th annual SKARTS gala fundraiser July 28.

Tito Puente Jr. got everyone dancing at the 8th annual SKARTS gala fundraiser July 28. Photo by Jason Emerson.

— The sounds of a Latin dance party mamboed across the grounds of Stella Maris last Saturday night as 300 people enjoyed the Latin jazz music of Tito Puente Jr. and his 12 piece jazz band during the eighth annual Skaneateles Area Arts Council Gala.

The gala, the major fundraiser of the year for SKARTS, raised thousands of dollars through the event, all of which goes back into the community in the form of grants to cultural, educational and community endeavors.

“People love this event,” said gala co-chair Fouad Dietz. “We couldn’t do this without community support — and the money we make goes right back out into the community.”

“This will be a different type of concert tonight,” said co-chair Jean McGlynn during set-up for the event Saturday afternoon. “People will get very involved and join in the dancing. It will be very festive and a lot of fun.”

It was a fun night, and energetic, with the highly infectious enthusiasm of Tito Puente Jr. and his band dancing off the stage, as well as members of La Familia de la Salsa dance troupe dancing on the dance floor -- and giving lessons and encouraging everyone to get up and dance.

And dance they did. After a salsa lesson from La Familia de la Salsa during the cocktail hour, from the minute Puente and his band started playing the dance floor was filled.

“We’re gonna take you back in time to the music you want to dance to,” said Fuente, who was not only a great musician, but hilariously funny as well. “We should all be in the kitchen right now, but we’re here,” he said, referring to the band’s Latin heritage.

Puente engaged the crowd, telling stories, sharing personal history and introducing all his songs, speaking both English and Spanish, with all of the lyrics being in Spanish. He praised the huge influence of his father, Tito Puente, on both himself and the world of music in general. “I have some very big shoes to fill,” Puente Jr. said.

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